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Current 93 - Soft Black Stars CD (album) cover


Current 93

Prog Folk

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5 stars David Tibet and Nick Cave seem to have been on a similar musical wavelength in the mid-to-late 1990s: not only did Cave provide guest vocals on All the Pretty Little Horses, but also both Cave and Tibet ended up releasing albums which found them vocalising over sparse, melancholic piano-focused tunes in a creative departure from their previous work. Though Cave got his experiment in this vein out first in the form of The Boatman's Call, Tibet takes it further with Current 93's Soft Black Stars, creating a haunting atmosphere that Cave's No More Shall We Part would later only just manage to approach.

As well as providing a major gear shift from the preceding neofolk-oriented albums, the new musical style also manages to bring out the best in David Tibet's voice, on perhaps his most tender and affecting vocal performance yet. Lyrically it is also very strong, with Tibet's clever sense of humour shown here and there on pieces like A Gothic Love Song and a poetic style which makes him perhaps one of the great unsung heroes of recent songwriting. Thematically, Tibet keeps things deeply personal for the most part, with nods here and there to his then-current obsessions. (For instance, he's still clearly under the spell of Thomas Ligotti, given that the title is taken from a phrase in a Ligotti story.)

Like nothing before it in the Current 93 discography, Soft Black Stars is an instant classic of piano-focused singer- songwriter poetry.

Report this review (#1603320)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Like the new age genre, neo folk might have existed before it was so named, at least from a lyrical perspective, but, while most bands so classified were influenced by the unlikely bedfellows of dark wave and acoustic folk, CURRENT 93 actually began as one of those industrialists. They remain one of the biggest names in the field, with a breadth of styles that might work against lesser artists. "Soft Black Stars" represents a genial foray into recited poetry over little more than piano and a few strings. Mastermind David Tibet has an affable voice for this purpose, and Michael Cashmore's piano accompaniment consists largely of fragments of melody of the sort that one might hear from a perfectionist student rushing through the exercises before this week's lesson. Somehow, this works brilliantly, the maudlin and ironic barely sung lyrics complementing the arrangements and adhering to the structure by a hair, and a fine strand it is. My favorite moment is probably this verse from "Mockingbird":

Some years ago
We had sat down and wept
With the sea in our ears
And seven cats on our laps
Whilst the books gathered dust
Unread and untrue
And you flicked through the letters
I could not bear to read

While most of the pieces are only as long as they need to be, the extended closer "Chewing on Shadows" shifts into ambient accompaniment, with a 3 minute poem recited over more diffuse instrumentation sandwiched within its quarter hour. I'm not sure exactly what to make of it except that I think it could have been shortened by half and still imparted the same effect without altering the feathery touch of the rest of the disk.

Unique within the widening diaspora of prog rock, "Soft Black Stars" is a gentle and exquisitely literate contribution from one of neo folk's brighter minds

Report this review (#1871662)
Posted Saturday, February 3, 2018 | Review Permalink

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